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Male or female: examining the effects of interviewers and interviewer sex in surveys

Dardha, S. (2021). Male or female: examining the effects of interviewers and interviewer sex in surveys. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This doctoral dissertation sits in the field of survey methodology researching interviewer effects, with a focus on the effects of interviewer sex on survey responses. It applies both qualitative and quantitative methods to primary and secondary data. The primary data consists of participant observation of face-to-face surveys conducted on behalf of a research agency based in London – this is the first study that offers direct ethnographic accounts of the underlying mechanisms related to interviewer error during the fieldwork from the perspective of an interviewer. The findings of this study offer unique insights into the role of interviewers and their effects in five areas: a) survey protocol, b) interaction, c) measurement, d) representation and e) other methodological observations related to the mode of data collection or paradata. The research also provides a systematic review and a meta-analysis of secondary data – this is the first study that systematically and quantitatively synthesises the literature of interviewer sex effects on survey responses. The review includes 84 manuscripts covering 94 surveys; of these, 51 manuscripts covering 56 datasets and 395 effect sizes were eligible for the meta-analysis. Overall, small interviewer sex effects were established – expressed as Cohen’s d standardised mean difference between responses given to male versus female interviewers. However, these mean differences in interviewer effects were found to vary by respondent sex, survey topic and other study characteristics. The results in this dissertation contribute to the body of knowledge pertaining to interviewer effects with concomitant insights for future survey practice and research. These include, for example, the areas of interviewer training and monitoring, fieldwork management, sampling design for interviewer-administered surveys and cultural implications of the interviewer sex effects on measurement.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Policy & Global Affairs > School of Policy & Global Affairs Doctoral Theses
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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